visual thinking

I didn’t like Malibu.

Or Bacardi Rum.

Not even with a coke.

I rather sat on the couch with a book than in a bar with my class mates. I was boring.

Recently I read a blog from a writer who also did not fit in at high school. He said: ‘It taught me to find my own way.’

Yes. My own way. I felt something shift. Now I can also look back with something that feels like pride.

That is reframing.


When you reframe you look at a problem in a different way. You do not look for a solution, but you change your view. And when you change your view, the problem also changes. And so do the solutions.

Why not just solve the problem?

Yes, it is nice if you can just solve it. But sometimes you don’t manage to figure it out and your friends can’t help you either. For instance when you want to take a new step in your work, but you don’t know which one. Then you can reframe.

And you do that by changing your beliefs.

How do you know which of your beliefs are in the way?

You don’t know immediately. Many or your beliefs are obscure: you don’t realize you have them.┬á So you have to find the ones that frustrate your efforts. During a writing course I put my thinking down like this:

My husband picked one: Why don’t I see it? He said: ‘Behind that thought you can find all kinds of convictions, ofcourse.’

Huh, that was just an ordinary thought, wasn’t it? Not one that required any further exploring.

But I started to wonder: how come I need to see it?

What is it? And is something wrong when I don’t see it?

There is my belief: I have to be able to do it. And if I do not manage immediately, at least I have to grasp it fast. And if I do not get it, I start thinking and studying really hard: what is the answer, is there a roadmap?

And yes, then you get stuck

When you are working on things that you just need to practice. In areas where you need to try out stuff before you finally develop that fingerspitzengef├╝hl. Where you need to experiment to find your flair.

Changing your beliefs is not that easy

No, our brain wants to confirm our beliefs. Because routine thinking is efficient. You have to come up with a trick to break the pattern.

If you map out a strong belief, you gain insight in how you think. You can look at it and play with it.


Yes, a blank sheet of paper is a free space, where you can try out different thoughts. In shapes, symbols, words, anything you want. And you can go in all directions, for instance in a mindmap. Put your problem in the middle and explore your thinking behind it. And then you try if you can look at it differently.

You can also approach it in a structured way

Karim Benammar developed a 4-step-method to reframe. In his book Reframing: The art of thinking differently, he describes them extensively. The four steps are:

1. Take one of your core beliefs
2. Find four beliefs that support it
3. Formulate an opposite for each supporting belief
4. Reframe your core belief based on the opposites

Come on, that is too artificial

Yes, it is artificial. That is how you bypass your routine thinking. You find out why you think what you think. And when you formulate an opposite you enlarge your thinking space.

Benammar works with a diagram, so you can see the different beliefs next to each other. I give an example of one of my own thought exercises. With an issue that bothers me: I worry too much.

I still worry too much, but the exercise made my thinking about it looser. My visual brain can just look at the opposite thoughts on the issue. It does not have to panic and find a solution. It can explore the different angles in a relaxed way.

It does not matter if the opposites are true or not

But it is interesting to notice there is some truth in them. According to Benammar one of your supporting beliefs offers the trigger to look differently. As soon as you see another perspective contains some truth, your view broadens. He recommends to formulate your opposites as extreme as possible, to stretch your thinking as far as you can.

Anything goes

You can reframe your irritation about someone who is calling in the train. Or you can find new possibilities to solve the climate problem.

In short

Reframing means you change your beliefs. Exploring your beliefs is hard. Visual thinking makes it easier.

And now?

What is on your mind? Put your thoughts down on paper. Do you see some beliefs shining through?

If you can use some help to make your thinking visual: Download my free visual thinking crash course in pdf